jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 07:19 am
In another thread, I suggested that 'being' is different to 'existence'. The word 'being' refers to, for example, a human being. In fact there aren't many other uses of the word. Are there any other kinds of subject to which the word 'being' applies? I suppose 'spiritual beings', although you may not believe there is any such thing.

But an inanimate object is not a being. One would not say of a table or a stone that it was 'a being'. One would say it is a thing. A thing exists, but we wouldn't call it 'a being'. I suppose animals might be beings, especially the higher animals. I can see a dog or an elephant as a being, but not a prawn or a fly.

So I wonder if there is a difference between 'being' and 'existing'. It would seem to me that 'being' has a dimension of 'knowing' that is essential to it. Would you call an unconscious being, a being? I suppose you would, if the being still showed signs of life. But if it were dead, you would not say 'there is a dead being'. You would say 'there is a corpse' or 'a body'. As for all the very many objects in the universe, planets and mountains and stars and rivers, these are all existing things but not 'beings'.

I wonder if this is a recognized distinction in philosophy? I think it is probably fundamental to Indian philosophy but I don't know if it is a recognized distinction in Western philosophy, even though it seems obvious. Any thoughts?
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salima
 
  2  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 08:36 am
@jeeprs,
thinking of the words as verbs, i would said 'to be' is active and 'to exist' is passive

as nouns it is trickier. there is existence and there is being...everything has existence in my opinion, though it may have no physical qualities. thoughts and opinions exist but are not beings. beings exist, and some may not be physical...the knowing quality you are thinking of would be applicable to sentient beings, which i believe flies also are.

are there beings that are not sentient? outside of my first ex-husband that is?
have you met any? maybe the criteria is that a being has to have awareness and sentience, not necessarily self awareness (if in fact it is possible to be aware and not self aware. it would be the concept of what the self is that would be the variable).

just adding some new confusion to an old theme...
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 05:30 pm
@salima,
that's not confusing.

Can we say that 'to exist' has a different mean than 'to be'? 'Exist' derives from 'apart from' - the prefix 'ex' means outside of, or apart. So I think the very word 'exist' means 'to be apart'. Existence then is the realm of individuation, of selves and objects separated in space and time. 'existence' refers to the horizontal dimension of life - ourselves as beings in a realm of other beings, objects and relationships. As 'experience' is a transitive verb ('I experience it, I know it, I see it), this is the realm of experience. I exist, therefore I experience.

Being, on the other hand, could be understood as that which is prior to any and all experience. For any experience to arise, there must be a being to whom it occurs. This is why the nature of being is realized rather than experienced. But our attachment to the realm of experience, and the residue of our past experience, obscures the disclosure of Being.


See God , Zen and the Intuition of Being. I think this is where the idea comes from.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 05:52 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

that's not confusing.

Can we say that 'to exist' has a different mean than 'to be'? 'Exist' derives from 'apart from' - the prefix 'ex' means outside of, or apart. So I think the very word 'exist' means 'to be apart'. Existence then is the realm of individuation, of selves and objects separated in space and time. 'existence' refers to the horizontal dimension of life - ourselves as beings in a realm of other beings, objects and relationships. As 'experience' is a transitive verb ('I experience it, I know it, I see it), this is the realm of experience. I exist, therefore I experience.

Being, on the other hand, could be understood as that which is prior to any and all experience. For any experience to arise, there must be a being to whom it occurs. This is why the nature of being is realized rather than experienced. But our attachment to the realm of experience, and the residue of our past experience, obscures the disclosure of Being.


See God , Zen and the Intuition of Being. I think this is where the idea comes from.
I was a late bloomer rationally speaking. I remember seeing everything around me as beings. I've wondered if everybody has that, but they leave it behind at some point. I think it's there when people talk about the spirit of a place or building.

Kind of a primitive way of being, I guess. Smile My theory on it is that the division between the ideas of me and not-me hadn't fully formed yet. I was basically projecting my own being on everything around me.

Some people focus on the relationship between the subject and object in a sentence for an angle on this division. Thing is: I'd been pretty fluent for years before I stopped seeing everything around me as if it were alive. A good Spanish teacher says: translate the ideas, not the words.

Do you remember being less rational?
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 05:53 pm
@jeeprs,
beings are subjects, be-ing verb+gerund subjects can verb in the strictest sense, things cannot verb they cannot be. Being requires intuition to register state or intuition to empathetically superimpose a sate of being onto another. Thingness does not it is a simple object. It cannot intuit, it cannot register self, it cannot be subject.
0 Replies
 
stevecook172001
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 06:22 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

In another thread, I suggested that 'being' is different to 'existence'. The word 'being' refers to, for example, a human being. In fact there aren't many other uses of the word. Are there any other kinds of subject to which the word 'being' applies? I suppose 'spiritual beings', although you may not believe there is any such thing.

But an inanimate object is not a being. One would not say of a table or a stone that it was 'a being'. One would say it is a thing. A thing exists, but we wouldn't call it 'a being'. I suppose animals might be beings, especially the higher animals. I can see a dog or an elephant as a being, but not a prawn or a fly.

So I wonder if there is a difference between 'being' and 'existing'. It would seem to me that 'being' has a dimension of 'knowing' that is essential to it. Would you call an unconscious being, a being? I suppose you would, if the being still showed signs of life. But if it were dead, you would not say 'there is a dead being'. You would say 'there is a corpse' or 'a body'. As for all the very many objects in the universe, planets and mountains and stars and rivers, these are all existing things but not 'beings'.

I wonder if this is a recognized distinction in philosophy? I think it is probably fundamental to Indian philosophy but I don't know if it is a recognized distinction in Western philosophy, even though it seems obvious. Any thoughts?

I think "being" implies some level of sentience whereas "existence" does not.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 06:50 pm
@stevecook172001,
Thankyou. Indeed it does, but it is an interesting distinction, and one that not many people notice.

We had a number of long debates on the previous forum as to whether the word 'to exist' is univocal, in other words, only has one meaning: something either exists or it doesn't. Most modern philosophers would insist this is the case.

My view is that traditional philosophy recognizes modes of being, or different types, or levels, of existence. But this is not recognized in modern and analytical philosophy, to my knowledge.

This is why I am trying to establish the distinction and to see what others say about it. I find it interesting.
0 Replies
 
north
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 07:17 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

In another thread, I suggested that 'being' is different to 'existence'. The word 'being' refers to, for example, a human being. In fact there aren't many other uses of the word. Are there any other kinds of subject to which the word 'being' applies? I suppose 'spiritual beings', although you may not believe there is any such thing.


being does refer to Human beings but also perhaps to other life forms as well

Quote:
But an inanimate object is not a being. One would not say of a table or a stone that it was 'a being'. One would say it is a thing. A thing exists, but we wouldn't call it 'a being'.


true

Quote:
I suppose animals might be beings, especially the higher animals. I can see a dog or an elephant as a being, but not a prawn or a fly.


living beings however , I don't draw the line based at the intelligence of the being

Quote:
So I wonder if there is a difference between 'being' and 'existing'. It would seem to me that 'being' has a dimension of 'knowing' that is essential to it. Would you call an unconscious being, a being? I suppose you would, if the being still showed signs of life. But if it were dead, you would not say 'there is a dead being'. You would say 'there is a corpse' or 'a body'. As for all the very many objects in the universe, planets and mountains and stars and rivers, these are all existing things but not 'beings'.


we , mountain , stars and rivers all exist but only living things are beings

Quote:
I wonder if this is a recognized distinction in philosophy? I think it is probably fundamental to Indian philosophy but I don't know if it is a recognized distinction in Western philosophy, even though it seems obvious. Any thoughts?


not sure about Indian or Western philosophy

but the difference between being and existence is that being only includes living things whereas existence includes the animate and the inanimate
0 Replies
 
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 09:56 pm
@jeeprs,
I think that the distinction between "beings" and "existing things" has been a pretty constant distinction throughout Western philosophy, although it has gone under a variety of different names. Largely, these traditions employ a religion-derived rhetoric, but the distinction has also recurred in forms of vitalism, phenomenology, etc. Regardless of the names under which it has survived though, I think it remains a metaphysical question, and that is the reason that many modern epistemological and language-focused philosophical trends avoid or dismiss it. It has continued to be a vital question for some modern philosopher's however. You might want to check out Martin Heidegger or Emmanuel Levinas. I'm never one to recommend Heidegger, but he is relevant.

I guess I have to wonder for what purpose you are making this distinction, and to what degree that purpose would determine the nature of the distinction. I hesitate to endorse a view that derives this distinction from language alone, especially some form of etymological justification. I'm not sure how one could say that a thing lacks being, but then turn around and use "is" or "are" or "was" in connection with them. I'm sure that there are meaningful differences between "beings" and "existing things", but are these differences due to their occupying different levels of reality?

Not to come off as hostile, but the question of ontological difference requires a historical context to seem meaningful to me.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 11:13 pm
@Razzleg,
Razzleg wrote:

You might want to check out Martin Heidegger or Emmanuel Levinas. I'm never one to recommend Heidegger, but he is relevant.

I guess I have to wonder for what purpose you are making this distinction, and to what degree that purpose would determine the nature of the distinction. I hesitate to endorse a view that derives this distinction from language alone, especially some form of etymological justification. I'm not sure how one could say that a thing lacks being, but then turn around and use "is" or "are" or "was" in connection with them. I'm sure that there are meaningful differences between "beings" and "existing things", but are these differences due to their occupying different levels of reality?
I think Heidegger imagined that a thing involves dynamic tension between being and matter. Saying that a thing is "formed matter," he was suggesting that the two aspects are dependent elements of one thing.

Poetically speaking, there's a little bit of you in everything you sense. You see yourself as having an unchanging core. This is the root, so to speak, of the unchanging aspect of the thing you observe.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 11:38 pm
@Razzleg,
Not hostile in the least. I too think it is the basic distinction in philosophy, but I am trying to articulate it in a way that is, as you say, detached from a religious lexicon. (I know a little about how Heidegger might have thought about it, but I have hesitated about starting to read him because it is quite an undertaking.)

What prompts me, though, is that it is a distinction that seems completely lost on most people, and it seems to me to be one of the very first things that a philosophy should talk about. It seems to me to be first victim of nominalism, and nominalism came out the winner in the battle with realism. So there is the historical context. I think realism, in the medieval rather than the modern sense, is still nearer to the truth than nominalism. But the problem has always been, what does it mean to say that a universal 'exists'. People wonder 'where' they are or 'what' they are. But forms and universals don't 'exist somewhere': they simply show up in the way things happen.

onanismo1
 
  2  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 11:43 pm
@jeeprs,
I personally use "being" in a more general way. I don't want to be disagreeable though. To each their own preferred terminology. I agree with Parmenides. Being is one. Non-being is not. Thought is digital, or made of unities. All intelligible unities are beings, and all beings already possess the "properties" of existence and unity. Now this is just one way of using certain words, and the words used are less important than what they point to.

As to beings vs. things, I think consciousness is an abstraction, or a being. I think that subject and object distinctions are simply not primary, but imposed by language. The "self" is the" world" is the "self" is "experience" is "consciousness" is "concept" and so on. But we must use these inherited contingent concepts to call these concepts inherited and contingent. Beneath our digital/discrete thinking is a continuum of sensation and emotion that our system of concepts structures or chops into things/beings. And these beings are something like sets that can include other sets.

Now this is just my opinion. I think it's a great theme. Smile
0 Replies
 
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 11:55 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

I think Heidegger imagined that a thing involves dynamic tension between being and matter. Saying that a thing is "formed matter," he was suggesting that the two aspects are dependent elements of one thing.

Poetically speaking, there's a little bit of you in everything you sense. You see yourself as having an unchanging core. This is the root, so to speak, of the unchanging aspect of the thing you observe.


Well, my answer kind of depends on which Heidegger we are talking about. Regardless of which phase we are trying to assess, however, I'm not sure that Marty's thought ever had much to do with such a "vulgar" concept as matter. (I'm sure that there are some passages where I am proved wrong completely. If you would refer them to me, I certainly won't argue with them or you.) It's more likely that in response to the phrase, "dynamic tension between being and matter," he'd blow through his moustache and ski away to have a beer, hoping that you'd take his response as a meaningfully gnomic rejoinder. (No, no, I don't know what "hostility to Heidegger" you are referring to. Razz By the way, I assure you that the hostility that is in this response is reserved wholly for the German phenomenologist, and none for you. Sorry...)

If we are referring to beings that partake of "being-at-hand" then, I think that this definition might work as it relates specifically to Dasein. That is, beings-at-hand are in service to the caring project of the Dasein in question. But natural objects do not necessarily fit with this definition. Being (capital "b") doesn't operate in an "active" way vs. a "passive" way (in Heidegger). I'm not sure there is any tension to speak of besides the tension between being and not-being; all beings (lower-case "b") are a product of this tension. Heidegger backtracked from some of his comments about beings-at-hand in some of his later writings, specifically about works of art and engineering (poems, paintings, and bridges), but also natural objects; and posited that these objects might in fact be ways of tracing the meaning of being, thus in some sense implying that they may in fact be closer to, or more intimately involved in the unfolding of the meaning of, Being than we human beings.
Razzleg
 
  2  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2010 02:29 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

Not hostile in the least. I too think it is the basic distinction in philosophy, but I am trying to articulate it in a way that is, as you say, detached from a religious lexicon. (I know a little about how Heidegger might have thought about it, but I have hesitated about starting to read him because it is quite an undertaking.)

What prompts me, though, is that it is a distinction that seems completely lost on most people, and it seems to me to be one of the very first things that a philosophy should talk about. It seems to me to be first victim of nominalism, and nominalism came out the winner in the battle with realism. So there is the historical context. I think realism, in the medieval rather than the modern sense, is still nearer to the truth than nominalism. But the problem has always been, what does it mean to say that a universal 'exists'. People wonder 'where' they are or 'what' they are. But forms and universals don't 'exist somewhere': they simply show up in the way things happen.


Well, to a certain degree, I think that nominalism came out on top because its position contained more consistently demonstratable arguments, and in a period that placed a priority on the practice of ritual, this was decisive. Likewise, a later period that places a higher premium on practice (such as scientific practice) is more likely to opt for a form of nominalism.

I am hesitant about most ontological distinctions because it is often framed in an "us/them" dynamic. If the field of "existing things" vs. "beings" is limited to inanimate objects, this seems relatively harmless, unless it is used in an argument of ecological import. Then the distinction does not simply seem relevant, but is vital relevance. After all, if we are more ontologically significant than mere, let's say, trees, then the "well-being" of the surrounding foliage seems of lesser import than that of ourselves. The inviolable difference between us makes the common "interest" between ourselves and plant-life seem unconnected. I know that is not your intent, but it is an argument that often presents itself in similar situations.

In this case and in other, where is the line to be drawn between beings and existing things? As regards universals - mathematics, for example, which I know are of particular interest to you in regards this question: What distinguishes Mathematics (capital "m") from individual exercises of mathematical (lower-case "m") formulae. Mathematics may represent a certain form, or even language, of thought, that seem to require to operate in the same way regardless of circumstance to be meaningful. But there is evidence that these formulae do not "work" in the "same" way (like in certain problems in modern physics) where circumstances require a different interpretation of mathematical principles. (I'm not a physicist, so my POV is only a layman's.)

My point is that "being" is a notion of variable value. That was Aristotle's, the nominalists's, own conclusion. And perhaps it would be pragmatic, at the very least, to consider "being" as a value that might be reached by more than one means, at the very least, if not a variable value. I hope that this doesn't come off as harping, it's not. And I agree with you that it is a question of vital philosophic import. However, I think that it is a question who's answer will vary according to circumstance, as, perhaps, it should. I am sure that this seems like an ontologically inadequate, nominalist response; but I am afraid that any other response seems to me like to partake of the speculative or the mystical, and compresses several distinct concepts by which we shape the average experience. I know that experience is not limited to the "average experience". But if the ultimate experience is not accessible to the various perspectives that result in the average experience, by multiple routes, then I am not sure what warrant will ensure it's validity. In other words, I'm not sure that nominalism contradicts realism, but rather that it qualifies it.

Incidentally, if you are interested in reading some Heidegger, I recommend Basic Writings, edited by David Farrell Krell. Heidegger was more of a hedgehog than a fox, so there are many points at which the remainder of his oeuvre is accessible, but that collection contains a number of reliably-translated, representative essays. I'm obviously a little down on Heidegger, but not because I'm not familiar with him, nor do I think he is unimportant. On the contrary, I think that a grasp of the philosophy, and the man, is important to a complete picture of 20th century philosophy.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2010 02:39 am
@Razzleg,
thanks very much, very informative, and I will certainly look into that particular starting point for Heidegger.
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2010 03:02 am
@jeeprs,
I'm tired and have used the phrase "at the very least' far too often...suffice it to say, very little that I wrote should be taken too seriously. At the very least, I would be unsurprised if it wasn't all a questionable matter.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2010 04:29 am
@Razzleg,
of course it is questionable - that is the point! We are questioning what everyone thinks is ordinary. 'The task of the philosopher is to wonder at that which men think ordinary'.
0 Replies
 
TuringEquivalent
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2010 04:33 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

In another thread, I suggested that 'being' is different to 'existence'. The word 'being' refers to, for example, a human being. In fact there aren't many other uses of the word. Are there any other kinds of subject to which the word 'being' applies? I suppose 'spiritual beings', although you may not believe there is any such thing.

But an inanimate object is not a being. One would not say of a table or a stone that it was 'a being'. One would say it is a thing. A thing exists, but we wouldn't call it 'a being'. I suppose animals might be beings, especially the higher animals. I can see a dog or an elephant as a being, but not a prawn or a fly.

So I wonder if there is a difference between 'being' and 'existing'. It would seem to me that 'being' has a dimension of 'knowing' that is essential to it. Would you call an unconscious being, a being? I suppose you would, if the being still showed signs of life. But if it were dead, you would not say 'there is a dead being'. You would say 'there is a corpse' or 'a body'. As for all the very many objects in the universe, planets and mountains and stars and rivers, these are all existing things but not 'beings'.

I wonder if this is a recognized distinction in philosophy? I think it is probably fundamental to Indian philosophy but I don't know if it is a recognized distinction in Western philosophy, even though it seems obvious. Any thoughts?


So living things are 'beings', and non-living things are not 'beings', but 'things'?
Well, philosophers come up with categories. A categories is suppose to be ontologically independent. According to this view, everything is 'being'. living, and non-living things are not important distinctions.
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2010 09:44 am
@Razzleg,
Razzleg wrote:

Heidegger backtracked from some of his comments about beings-at-hand in some of his later writings, specifically about works of art and engineering (poems, paintings, and bridges), but also natural objects; and posited that these objects might in fact be ways of tracing the meaning of being, thus in some sense implying that they may in fact be closer to, or more intimately involved in the unfolding of the meaning of, Being than we human beings.
I can tell you have no fondness of Heidegger.. I have no interest beyond the fact that IMO he nailed it in his essay on the nature of art. He points out how the thing disappears if we go to either extreme of seeing it as subject or object.

There's a particular use of the word matter. I'd use some other word if I knew of one that would make it more understandable. I guess you could say unformed stuff. There is no unformed stuff though... that's kind of the point.
0 Replies
 
 

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